Friday, 30 June 2017

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970)

Adapted from the novel by poet Vítězslav Nezval, Valerie and Her Week of Wonders bears all the hallmarks of the liberated Czech New Wave, even though the irony is that, by the time it went into production, the nation had been subjected to a Soviet invasion that ruthlessly and violently brought it back into line with the Mother Russia. The film, like the novel before it, is a fantasy inspired by the Gothic movement and the dark, traditional fairytales that have so enchanted generations of Europeans throughout the centuries. But it also incorporated other influences, such as Lewis Carrol's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and FW Murnau's Nosferatu, all of which the film's director, Jaromil Jireš, faithfully adds to the pot.

The structure of the film is essentially an episodic string of surrealist dreams from the highly active, subconscious mind of our young heroine, the eponymous Valerie, played by Jaroslava Schallerová (and looking at times not unlike the teenage Kate Bush in the Carrol-esque photos taken by her brother John Carder Bush). That these dreams take on an increasing sexual nature are indicative of the great change presenting itself in reality to Valerie, as it is the week she has begun menstruating and therefore is becoming a woman. 

In the main, Valerie operates as a bystander to the weird and dark tableaus she finds herself, and these present the growing realisation she has of her relations and friends as sexual beings, complete with phallic and erotic imagery. In each scenario Valerie is never far from three consistent figures; her religious, repressive grandmother, a poetic, Puckish young man known as Eagle, and the vampiric Weasel, and what it is each represents to Valerie is often interchangeable. For example, Weasel can be the Nosferatu-like vampire who feasts on the blood of chickens, a corrupt and lustful bishop, or a handsome red headed man who is identified as Valerie's father. He seems to be a metaphor for male authority in Valerie's life; be it the bogeyman of fantasy or a very real sexual threat, or simply a paternal figure. He could even serve as a representation of Russia; old, authoritative and unforgiving in the nature of youth. Likewise, Eagle is identified both as a potential suitor Valerie falls for and also her estranged brother, and incest is clearly not a concern for either of them. It's no coincidence either that his youthful spirit allies itself to Valerie in this strange world. Lastly her grandmother is also endlessly shifting, moving through the familial roles, from grandmother to her mother and even appearing as a glamourous provocative cousin (and accomplice to Weasel's vampire) to awaken Valerie's lesbian side. 

Whatever Valerie faces, she moves from each scenario seemingly unscathed and unaffected, often thanks to her earrings which are decreed in this fantasy as having special powers that keep her safe. Valerie remains pure, but the sexual nature of others seems to come alive at night, when the restrictive cloak of respectability religion and authority falls away.

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders offers so much to consider that it is actually quite hard for me right now to pin down what it is I actually think of it. I'm not altogether sure it's a success for me, and the fact that this is arguably the first Czech New Wave film to disappoint me (however slightly) pains me, but it has left me with much to consider and, should I return to it, I think I'll have a more definite answer one way or another. Maybe, like Valerie herself, I will have to sleep on it. Though it's a shame to think that the morning Valerie woke up to was the dawning of the age of immobility in the kingdom of forgetting.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Definition of Shameless Hypocrisy

With the tragedies of the Grenfell tower block, the MEN bombing and the London attack in recent weeks, the government have been repeatedly (and rightly) praising the work of the emergency services.

But yesterday, they voted to successfully defeat an opposition move to end the public sector pay freeze. Not only that, they cheered themselves for doing it.

If you really valued the people who put their lives on the line to save the lives of others then why can't you put your money where your mouth is and reward them properly?

Money can be found, to the tune of 1.5 billion, to prop up Theresa May's weak premiership with the DUP, but not for these ordinary heroes who are there whenever we need them, but whose response is increasingly hampered by austerity measures.

That is the shameless hypocrisy of this government.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

A Farewell To Two Michaels

Today brings news of the sad deaths of two very talented people named Michael; the Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist and the children's author Michael Bond.

Nyqvist was 56 and had been suffering from lung cancer for a year. The actor made his name as police officer Banck in the 1997 series of Beck films on Swedish TV, and received his breakthrough film role in Lukas Moodysson's acclaimed Together in 2000. But he was perhaps best known for his role as Mikael Blomkvist in the original (and best) Swedish language film adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and its subsequent sequels, and for his villainous turns in Hollywood blockbusters such as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and John Wick.


Bond was 91 and died following a short illness at home yesterday. He published his first book, A Bear Called Paddington, in 1958 which introduced to the world the marmalade loving bear Paddington, from 'deepest, darkest Peru'. His inspiration for the character came from an impulse boy of a lonely looking teddy bear on a shelf in a shop window as a stocking filler for his wife and from his memories of seeing refugee Jewish children at train stations during the war. Several books (selling over 25 million worldwide) an evergreen TV series and a successful film adaptation continued Paddington's adventures and has gone on to touch and enchant generations of children.


Wordless Wednesday: Settle

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Back Home

So it's been a full week now since I returned from my holiday in the fabulous Yorkshire Dales. I took some photos whilst I was away and I'll be sharing them with you soon in the Wordless Wednesday/Silent Sunday posts. In the mean time, here's one photo of me and Boozy taken in the small village of Tosside on the Lancs/Yorks border.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Out On Blue Six: Algiers

Is it too early to call this wonderful Norther Soul evocative tune the track of the summer?

End Transmission

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Elephant Juice (1999)

Elephant Juice is a 1999 movie from the creator and one of the directors of the seminal BBC series (and a big favourite of mine) This Life. The divine Daniela Nardini, who made her name in that show as Anna, the post feminist icon, appears here too as part of the Generation X ensemble in a story that sits comfortably somewhere between This Life and Cold Feet.

I'm classing this as a first watch even though I feel almost certain that I've seen it (or at the very least some of it) before. It seems fitting somehow, as Elephant Juice itself seems very much like a half forgotten film. The DVD (which I picked up cheap, arguably for Nardini) is one of those early '00s affairs, when 'special features' basically meant you were given the added opportunity of scrolling through pages of long text which outlined cast and crew filmographies and production notes. In the latter notes, the director Sam Miller uses the phrase 'pre-millennial zeitgeist' when describing the film and I guess your opinion of the film ultimately depends on whether such a phrase endears you or sends you running to the hills. Make no mistake, Elephant Juice details the troubled lives of a group of relatively privileged London based Gen X yuppies in the latter stages of the twentieth century. It is writer Amy Jenkins' belief that when we approach thirty we enter a second stage of the traditional coming-of-age phase which is supposed to set us up for the rest of our adult lives. With this in mind, our characters are aware that time is moving on and that they either a) should be in a relationship with 'the one' or b) should be making the relationship they are in fit, despite all the warning signs that it is perhaps not going to. Jenkins will argue that this is a common theme that will speak universally to an audience, so why doesn't Elephant Juice work?

Well apart from the fact that it's a romantic comedy drama that seems utterly devoid of laughs, I think the main issue here is that the characters, whose predicaments we are supposed to universally relate too, just aren't all that likeable. Sean Gallagher's emotionally inexperienced Billy is our point of identification, but he's just too wet both in terms of writing and in performance to truly endear us to him. His best friend Will (Daniel Lapaine) is a familiar cretin; attractive to women, arrogant and completely ruled by his genitals. His friendship with Billy is built on the fact that as long as Billy is emotionally undeveloped, then he too can get away with being an immature love rat. Will is in a relationship with long suffering Jules (Emmanuelle Béart, in her first English film) who Billy secretly holds a candle for, but Will is also sleeping with anything that comes into his orbit, including Billy's new girlfriend Dodie (Kimberley Williams) and Daphne, Daniela Nardini's character; a troubled soul not unlike This Life's Anna, who is just starting a relationship with the level headed, sensitive Frank (Mark Strong) Rounding out the ensemble are gay couple Graham and George (Lennie James and Lee Williams); Graham is older, more experienced with the scene and keen to settle down, whereas George is an androgynous young model who is still experiencing life. Of the whole bunch, it's these latter characters (Daphne, Frank, Graham and George) who are situated on the periphery, who are the most interesting and the fact that the film doesn't focus as much on them makes it a bit of a chore.

The film is structured in quite a free form way, with a dinner party providing some ballast and scenes in which the respective dramatic arcs are shaped by a series of preceding inter-titles that take their cue from the kind of question/chapter headings you would find in popular self help books of the time. As a time capsule depicting the dilemmas of relationships for twentysomethings in late twentieth century Britain, Elephant Juice is perhaps handy enough. But ultimately, and perhaps because of Jenkins and Miller's roots, it feels less like a film and more like a one-off TV drama, and overall there's a whiff of unnatural pretentiousness to the proceedings that makes it hard to connect fully despite some good performances, chiefly from Béart (who subtly draws on her émigré status to build on her character's isolation and misplaced loyalty to Will) and the reliable Nardini, Strong and James in support.

Monday, 19 June 2017

RIP Brian Cant

Really saddened to hear of the death of Brian Cant today. The veteran children's TV presenter was 83 and had been suffering from Parkinson's for some time and was residing at Denville Hall, a retirement home for former entertainers.

Cant's gentle, reassuring and kindly tones helped provide the soundtrack to my childhood. He was the voice of Trumpton, Camberwick Green and Chigley, but he will perhaps be best known for his twenty-one year long association with the BBC's flagship children's programme Play School, which he started presenting in 1964, and for its sister show Play Away, which he hosted from 1971 to 1984.

Originally, Cant's career was that of an actor; he appeared in two Doctor Who stories in the 1960s, The Dalek Master Plan (1965, see picture below) and The Dominators (1968) opposite William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton respectively, as well as film roles in 1965's The Pleasure Girls and 1966's The Sandwich Man, but it was children's TV that became his staple. 

After Play School and Play Away, Cant presented Bric-a-Brac from 1980 to 1982 and played Brian the Farmer alongside a host of puppets in Dappledown Farm from 1990 to 2003, before returning to acting in later years with roles in the BBC afternoon drama Doctors and the 1995 film A Feast At Midnight, alongside Christopher Lee. In the late '90s, Cant's natural mischief allowed him to lightly send up his association with children's programmes when he lent his voice to The Organ Gang, a cartoon segment during Lee and Herring's This Morning With Richard Not Judy. Enjoying this new cultish recognition from a generation of twentysomethings that he had previously entertained, Cant went on to star in the music video for the Orbital track The Altogether

He was honoured with a special Children's BAFTA in 2010 recognising his outstanding services to children's TV and the happiness he brought to the generations of boys and girls who grew up in the UK from the '60s onwards.


RIP Stephen Furst and John G Avildsen

Two more sad deaths from the entertainment world occurred on Friday; film and television actor Stephen Furst and Oscar-winning director John G. Avildsen.

Furst is perhaps best known for his role as Flounder in the hit 1978 comedy film National Lampoon's Animal House. He was a regular in the science fiction series Babylon 5 playing Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto. But for me personally, I will always have fond memories of his role in St Elsewhere as Dr. Elliot Axelrod. Alongside acting, Furst also worked as a director and producer. He died from complications with diabetes, something he has suffered with all his adult life.


American film director John G Avildsen will forever be known as the Oscar-winning director of 1976's Rocky, but in a career that stretched back to 1970 with his debut feature Joe, Avildsen was responsible for many films including the stunning Save The Tiger, which earned Jack Lemmon a Best Actor Oscar and the first three films in the original Karate Kid franchise. He returned to the Rocky series with 1990's critically mauled Rocky V. Avildsen passed away following a battle with pancreatic cancer.


The Navigators (2001)

In terms of story and tone, The Navigators, Ken Loach's somewhat overlooked 2001 film, is the kid brother to his earlier film Riff-Raff. Both films are relatively light in tone and deal with the corrosive effects on an industry when management insist you start to cut corners, and both films were written by men who had worked in those industries, making for a deeply authentic and believable atmosphere.

The Navigators was written by first-time screenwriter and former railwayman Rob Dawber, who based it on his own experiences and what he saw as a result of the privatisation of the railways in the mid 90s. Tragically, this film also shares another link with Riff-Raff; like the writer of that earlier film, former labourer Bill Jesse, Dawber died not long after the work on the film was completed, cruelly cutting short a promising secondary career in film. His death from mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer, is all the more poignant when you consider it was likely caused by handling asbestos in his work on the railways. As Ken Loach said in Dawber's Guardian obituary, 'working people have lost a champion'. He received a posthumous BAFTA for Best New Writer for the film.

The Navigators follows five railway workers –  pragmatic John, young divorcee Paul, cautious Mick, sensitive Jim and union man Gerry  – who work in a Sheffield depot affected by the privatisation of British Rail in 1995. The men are informed by their useless and pompous supervisor Harpic (so called because he's 'clean round the bend') one morning that they are now working for a company called East Midlands Infrastructure (and pretty soon after, that company is bought out by another; Gilchrist Engineering, which refuses to recognise all previous agreements made between management and the union) and that from now on they will either be competing with rival track companies or they can take voluntary redundancy. Pretty soon, the gang realise that's not all they're competing against either; as work dries up and agencies dominate the market offering well paid contracts but no job security or adequate health and safety precautions, their backs are against the wall and they're left to contemplate whether the grass is really greener on the other side of the track.

The Navigators is a very funny film filled with an authentic working man's bone dry, witty dialogue that could only ever have been written by a genuine working man. There's a very funny joke that is played across several scenes revolving around the greediness and slow-wittedness of a secondary character, the depot's cleaner, that never fails to have me chuckling, but this lightness of tone effectively hides the darker, more serious undercurrent, making its bite all the more sharper when it strikes. The scene featuring Gilchrist Engineering's slick corporate video, full of empty yet impressive sounding buzzwords is satirically and dolefully amusing at first, but, with hindsight and the poor effects of privatisation apparent to all, we can see just how hollow and insulting such a facile veneer truly is. Worse of all, the film showcases just how damage these private contractors did to the community of the rail workforce, ushering in their dog eat dog methodology that effectively set the industry back a century in terms of workers rights and protection as is shockingly witnessed in the film's final reel.

It's bewildering to think that a gem such as this is all too often overlooked in Loach's cannon. It needs to be seen by more people and will almost certainly be appreciated. It's central message is all the more topical in this world of zero hour contracts and a substandard living wage and, in its central theme of nationalisation being better than privatisation, it should undoubtedly strike a chord with anyone who felt politically energised by Jeremy Corbyn's recent Labour manifesto which pledged the renationalisation of the railways. 

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Grenfell: Fake News and Poor Media

Firstly, I just want to share something that was posted on the AAV blog. It's a tweet from Breitbart London's Chief Editor, Raheem Kassam, and it's been brilliantly dissected and shown up for the lie it is

Don't believe the lies, don't trust what you hear. Look to the truth. This is important, because if you look at some news outlets such as The Guardian today you will see that up to a thousand people turned up at Downing Street today (along with several others across the country) to protest over the lack of help and aid and the sheer disregard for life at the hands of both local and national government. However, if you caught the BBC News half hour ago, you wouldn't know of this, because they decided it wasn't important enough to report to the nation. 

Why? For Christ's sake, we cannot deny the justifiable anger these people are feeling. It's not listening to these people that created this tragedy in the first place. Don't make the same mistake again. Their voices deserve to be heard! People are already believing a major cover up is in operation behind closed doors in an attempt to duck the blame, do you really think ignoring their pain will help to stop this suspicion?

Thankfully ITV News did report on the protest at Downing Street, presumably because they're not intent on licking Theresa May and the Tories arses all the time.

And it ought to go without saying, but please don't buy The S*n. One of their 'journalists' pretended to be the friend of one victim receiving treatment at King's College Hospital in an attempt to secure an interview. The hospital have submitted a complaint to press standards. If you read The S*n then you are actively condoning this kind of shitty, disgusting behaviour and allowing Murdoch to continue. 

That Was The Week That Was

I'm back from my week's holiday in the Dales. Whilst the holiday itself was lovely, it was a week that brought a lot of sadness.

We lost the great Adam West, a man who was known worldwide for his performance as Batman in the legendary1960s TV series that featured the pop art style adventures of Gotham's caped crusader. Most recently West lent his voice to several seasons of Seth McFarlane's Family Guy, playing himself; the mayor of Quahog. He was 88.

We lost Anita Pallenberg, the original It Girl; a rock chick so hot she secured not one, not two, but three Stones in her time - Brian, Keith and (it is said) a brief dalliance wit Mick on the set of Performance. She was 73.

And most harrowing of all, we lost so many in one of the biggest tragedies to rock this country; the Grenfell Tower fire. As I type, the authorities have announced that 58 people are missing, presumed dead. That's on top of the 16 bodies already recovered. After the shock and the heartbreak, anger is mounting and who can blame people for getting angry? Once again the cost cutting measures of national and local government has come under scrutiny in the wake of needless death and disaster. Whoever signed off an order for cheap cladding that is banned in several countries, whoever elected not to pay £5,000 more for fire resistant material, and whoever refused to take up the recommendations for sprinklers in all tower blocks by 2013, need to be hedl to account in a court of law. The only light at the end of this tunnel is that this looks set to oust an increasingly hopeless and weak Theresa May from office. 

RIP to them all.

Saturday, 10 June 2017


Radio silence for the next week as I take my annual break. Stay optimistic comrades and I'll see you soon.

Friday, 9 June 2017

RIP Glenne Headly

Glenne Headly, star of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Dick Tracy, has died at the age of 62.

Headly was an early member of Chicago's acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre Company, alongside her first husband Jon Malkovich, but it was her role in 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels alongside Michael Caine and Steve Martin that brought her international recognition and the prize of Most Promising New Actress by the Chicago Film Critics Association. From there, she was cast by Warren Beatty to play Tess Trueheart in Dick Tracy and starred opposite Bruce Willis and Demi Moore in Mortal Thoughts, before reuniting with Steve Martin in the big screen version of Sgt Bilko. She appeared alongside Danny DeVito in What's The Worst That Could Happen?, played opposite Richard Dreyfus in Mr Holland's Opus and starred in Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo.On TV, she gained an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Lonesome Dove, had a recurring role in ER from 1996 to '97 as Dr Abby Keaton and starred as Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer's daughter in a live telecast of On Golden Pond. Most recently she starred in acclaimed HBO series The Night Of.

It isn't yet known how Headly died.


Coming to DVD: The Day of the Jackal

I've written a new critical essay for the forthcoming Arrow Films Bluray release of the Fred Zinnemann classic, The Day of the Jackal. Out on 4th September.

They Said It Couldn't Be Done

The MSM and the backstabbing Blairites said that if Labour moved to the left, they'd be over and done with as a credible party.

They said that Corbyn was out of date and that he'd never engage this country with his politics.

They said it couldn't be done.

Comrades, they were wrong.

I've had about three hours sleep, but my optimism is unshakeable. Optimism is a weapon. 

But hear are the facts; Corbyn has done more to increase his parties majority since Attlee in '45.

Grassroots activism has won out over the tired, arrogant Westminster bubble. People heard the nasty smears, the lies and propaganda of the MSM and they told them were to shove it. Murdoch stormed out of The Times after hearing that exit poll - his bitter grip on UK politics is finally slipping. The Blairites are already trying to grab some of the sheen of Corbyn's campaign for themselves, claiming that this result is down to the efficiency of the Labour party machine and that they were always left wing, that it's the media who have moved the goalposts; it's a laughably desperate, pitiful act of yesterday's men who have had their day. The truth is that the youth of this country heard what Jeremy Corbyn had to say and replied with 'that is the future we want for ourselves. That is the country we want to live in' Each and every one of them, each and every one of you who voted Labour yesterday, are utterly beautiful and I thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

Solidarity comrades and take heart; change is going to come tomorrow. This morning is uncertain, but what is 100% certain is that even if Theresa May manages to form a government, her massive gamble, her hubris and arrogance failed, and her party is severely wounded as a result.

Everything they said couldn't be done has been done. June really is the end of May. The day of the Mayfly is over.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Graduation aka Bacalaureat (2016)

Watching a man sell his soul piecemeal for his daughter’s future has never felt so intimate or intricate, and proves a cinematically damning indictment to a Romanian society well versed in such acts

You can read my full review at The Geek Show

What I Did Today

And if you didn't and the other lot stay in, then you can fuck the fuck off because you're the one who has pressed self destruct for society with that little 'x' you put alongside a Tory twat.

But if you haven't voted yet, then please hurry up and do so. Polling stations are open until 10pm - and vote Labour!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

RIP Andy Cunningham

A bit of my childhood died today with the news that Andy Cunningham passed away on the 5th June following a battle with cancer at the age of 67.

Cunningham was the creator, main writer and performer of the long running children's TV series Bodger and Badger which aired for ten years between 1989 and 1999. The show revolved around the hapless handyman Simon Bodger (Cunningham) and his badly behaved mash loving companion, a talking Badger.

Cunningham had previously been the uncredited puppeteer responsible for Ephant Mon, Jabba the Hut's head of security in 1983's Return of the Jedi and was Cambridge educated, having read English. I always liked Cunningham because he clearly wasn't your standard RP trained BBC kids TV person; you got the sense there was something of the fringe and the alternative about him, that he'd been around the block, in much the same way that the presenters of Bitsa - also on at that time - were. His long term partner was Jane Basset who performed as Badger's accomplice Mousey in later series of the show. Thought they ultimately separated, they remained great friends and she was with him along with family when he died at Royal Sussex County Hospital.

Bodger and Badger remains a popular evergreen favourite (despite not having been broadcast since 2008) thanks to its status as a cult favourite amongst Generation X'ers. Cunningham's act became a favourite on the university circuit, performing Mash Potato Theme Nights at several student unions, and at the kids field at the Glastonbury festival.


Wordless Wednesday: What You Need To Do Tomorrow

Monday, 5 June 2017

Theresa May and the Alleged Saudi Funding of UK Terrorist Cells

It's bad enough that Theresa May is so hypocritical that she is spouting crap about getting tougher on the question of extremism - as if she wasn't in a position to do this these past SEVEN YEARS as Home Sec and now PM.

It's bad enough that at the weekend, at a time when electioneering was supposed to be called off as a mark of respect, Boris Johnson tweeted that 'Corbyn will never protect us from our enemies' - again, we've had two terrorist attacks in a fortnight, and one in March; all under the Conservative government's watch. That's the same Tory government that slashed police budgets, made several thousand officers redundant and dismissed senior police chiefs concerns of vulnerability in the face of potential terrorist attacks as 'scaremongering' 

It's bad enough that the supposedly impartial BBC and their political editor Laura Kuenssberg deliberately misinterpreted Jeremy Corbyn's stance on Shoot to Kill in a report after the Paris attacks in an attempt to make him appear weak on security and terrorism.

It's bad enough that the media are continuing with the appalling state sponsored black propaganda against Corbyn regarding his peace seeking activities in Northern Ireland - activities that won him the Gandhi Foundation's Peace Award in 2013.

But what's really bad, what needs pushing the most right now is just what does Theresa May know about the Saudi Arabia's links with the terrorism we're currently witnessing on these shores.

Because right now there's a report the government are sitting on that explains just what they know, but they refuse to release it deeming its contents as 'sensitive'

Yes, it would be very sensitive right now just days before a General Election and just days after the second terrorist attack in as many weeks.

They don't want us to know because it will damage their reputation, their election campaign and their chance at staying in government.

You can read more about this despicable Tory-skin saving cover up here at the independent news blog AAV and at the Guardian, the Independent and Newsweek.

You can read the Foreign Affairs Select Committee report  that states Britain are supplying Saudi with arms to commit war crimes in the Yemen. And feel your spine chill at Boris Johnson's claim that 'if we don't, someone else will' - as if that justifies such mercenary acts?!

Saudi Arabia fund terrorism. How can Theresa May justify the arms trade with them?

Why was Manchester's attacker Salman Abedi allowed to enter the UK despite the US warning he planned an attack and his time spent in Libya and Syria? John Pilger asks what did Theresa May actually know of Abedi?

Why are supposedly impartial news outlets such as the BBC refusing to address this story? Why are daily newspapers not pushing this to the front page? 

Philip May, Theresa'a hubby, was wheeled out for that natural hotbed of political discourse, The One Show, recently in a bid to appear domestic and human. But what does his work at the Capital Group and his links through his role there with princes Adel al-Jubeir and Muhammed bin Nayef tell us? Especially given that these two people are alleged to fund ISIS in the report. Is it any wonder the Tories are sitting on this?

Don't believe the lies of Theresa May and her cronies. They have not kept us safe. They will not keep us safe. Their only interest is in monetary gain, not people. 

Vote Labour this Thursday. This is our chance, don't squander it.

Vote Labour to Help our Police Do Their Job

When PC Paul Taylor was captured on camera linking arms with young fans and dancing, it was the most heartwarming moment of last night's One Love Manchester

It reminded us that these officers protect us from harm and comfort us through the bad and the good. But they can only do that if they are given the budget to do so. There are calls today for Theresa May to resign because she has made our country vulnerable and because, when told she was putting our country in danger from terrorism by the police, she dismissed such concerns as 'scaremongering. Theresa May needs to learn that cuts have consequences, and she must pay the price for having blood on her hands. Three are plenty of petitions calling for her resignation, including this one which I ask you to sign. But there's one other thing you can do that will certainly take May from office - and that is to vote Labour on Thursday. Only Labour will keep our country safe and give the police the tools to do the job.

And while we are at it, let's give Ariana Grande the keys to Manchester for her achievement last night.

RIP Peter Sallis

News of another sad loss has been announced, Peter Sallis has died at the age of 96.

Sallis was best known for his performance as flat-capped philosopher Norman 'Cleggy' Clegg in all 295 episodes of the record-breaking BBC sitcom Last of the Summer Wine which ran from 1973 to 2010, and for providing the voice of Wigan-based cheese loving eccentric and inventor Wallace in Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit series of films.

Sallis' lengthy TV career also included performances as Samuel Pepys in the 1958 adaptation The Diary of Samuel Pepys, the 1967 Doctor Who serial, The Ice Warriors, The Persuaders!, The Kamikaze Ground Staff Reunion Dinner, the voice of Rat in Cosgrave Hall's acclaimed The Wind in the Willows, The New Statesman, Come Home Charlie and Face Them, and playing his Last of the Summer Wine character's own father, in series prequel First of the Summer Wine. Films included Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Charlie Bubbles, Taste the Blood of Dracula, and Wuthering Heights


Garage (2007)

When it comes to director Lenny Abrahamson, I've come quite late to the party. Earlier this year I was blown away by Room and became intrigued to check out his earlier work, set in his native Ireland. I was especially excited to hear his cult classic Adam and Paul referred to as the kind of film Mike Leigh would make if he made a film about two Dublin drug addicts. Whilst I've yet to see Adam and Paul, Garage bears some of those Leigh hallmarks. This is the kind of film that reflects the minutiae of reality, featuring the kind of people who wouldn't normally grace the big screen. Real people, real lives, acutely observed.

Garage tells the story of Josie (Pat Shortt) the caretaker of a crumbling, run-down petrol station on the outskirts of a rural town in the mid-west of Ireland. It's clear that Josie has some form of learning disability and that this has made him something of a loner, always on the periphery of a community that regard him as harmless at best and, at worst, a soft touch to take advantage of. But despite his shortcomings, Josie remains optimistic and is clearly relatively happy with his simple lot in life. He had the opportunity to move to England as a young man, to work in a meat rendering factory in Leicester, but he turned it down to work at the garage owned by Mr Gallagher, the father of a classmate from school. Now, it is that self same classmate - Mr Gallagher (Jr) - that Josie works for and he's hit upon the idea of keeping the garage open later at weekends over the summer. To help Josie out, he arranges for a local teenager to start work there too. It's a decision that will change Josie's life forever.

This is a beautifully shot and performed production that hides much beneath the surface of its seemingly slow, 'everyday' narrative. There's an undercurrent of things being stifled at birth, literally in the case of the puppies one of Josie's barfly friends takes down to the river to drown, or in Josie's anecdote about the eels he caught as a young man that strangled themselves in the bucket whilst he deliberated over what to do with them. It's there too in the horse tethered out in the field who offers arguable the only true and pure intimacy that Josie is clearly searching for. The theme of a small town crushing potential is not a new one, but its handled so accurately and so subtly by Abrahamson that it stands out amongst other films that address the notion, particularly in the wake of the Celtic Tiger's painful economic demise. 

And then there's that ending, when everything that's been bubbling along under the surface finally comes to a head and we can see this small story actually had big themes to deliver. It's really, utterly heartbreaking to watch those final twenty minutes and Shortt delivers the agonising injustice of the piece in a way which leaves a sombre lasting impression on the viewer. The final shot of the horse walking down the railway track is magical, at once both tragic and yet strangely uplifting; the sense of a spirit finally becoming free.

Reflective, quietly comic and beautifully observed, Garage is a film that deserves a wider audience.